Michael Begey Talks About Great Mentors, Good Clients and Family
In his nearly 20 years of working at RumbergerKirk, Michael Begey, a partner in RK’s Orlando office, cherishes the opportunities he’s had to work with all three founding partners. Attributing his success to great mentors, good clients and a supportive family, Michael talks about his journey and how he unwinds when spending time with his family.
A Pittsburgh native, Michael’s family moved to Orlando when he was 13 years old. After attending the University of Central Florida, he and his then girlfriend headed to Pittsburg where he attended law school. “We married my final year in law school and while my wife enjoyed the cold for a few years, she was ready to come back to Florida when I finished school,” said Michael.
Upon returning to the state, Michael began sending resumes to firms in Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa. “I had several interviews including one with Skip Eubanks. I was very interested in the automotive product liability work RK was doing,” Michael noted.
“From day one the firm’s partners allowed me the opportunity to grow and learn. I wasn’t sitting around doing research projects. Instead, I was working with clients and on cases right away,” said Michael. “In addition to being able to learn from these very skilled trial lawyers, they had grace and mercy when I made mistakes, but expected me to learn quickly from them and not make the same mistake twice. They accepted apologies and helped me to become a better lawyer. If you mess up, it can usually be fixed, but being concerned and learning from those mistakes is extremely important,” he continued.
Another aspect Michael has always enjoyed about working at RK is the open door policy and casual nature of the firm. “You can easily bounce questions and ideas off of other attorneys and partners. It’s not formal in that regard at all,” he said. The firm’s partners are all accessible and open to go to lunch with associates. Where else do you work with a senior founding partner? I see Bud Kirk every day and have personally found him to be a really great mentor. It’s been a pleasure to work with him over the years,” said Michael.
Being successful and sticking with the firm over the length of his career has really come down to finding the work interesting and challenging and liking both his fellow attorneys and clients. “I like the work I do and who I do it with,” Michael said. “With product liability, every case is different, but you do see a pattern. For instance, consider that two air bag cases involve extremely different plaintiffs and claims, but the research and product knowledge translates. I remember when I was first starting out, I’d see the senior attorneys just know how to approach a situation, something that might have taken me six hours to figure out, they already knew just from having so much experience. Now, the tables have turned and after 18-19 years of working these cases, I am able to share my experience with the associates,” explained Michael.
While Michael considers himself primarily a products liability litigator, he also has works in commercial litigation. “With commercial litigation, there is a big variance in the cases I see from business disputes, contracts, competition clauses, etc. Because these cases can vary so much, I often find myself looking at things from a new perspective and doing a lot of research.”
“Being in the courtroom is a lot of fun, but we don’t get to trial very much,” admitted Michael.“Cases just don’t get there because they typically resolve before trial.” He remembers going to trial with founding partner Dick Caldwell. “He is just so completely organized and prepares beyond belief,” said Michael. “He’s both extremely deliberate and very easy going,” continued Michael. “I’ve also been to trial with Bud Kirk who is also a brilliant lawyer. He invokes a lot of emotion during his trials. I’ve learned so much from each of them.”
While Michael did not have the opportunity to go to trial with Thom, he did have the opportunity to work in some capacity with him. “He was just such an intimidating force. He had a presence about him and everyone around him just focused on what he had to say and learned from him, from senior level partners to associates,” remembered Michael.
“The key to getting new business and building lasting relationships with clients is to do good work,” said Michael. “In product liability, especially automotive, the manufacturers talk to each other. If you show you can handle tough cases and are responsive, word will spread,” he continued. “I practice with a sense of urgency and try to get back to clients on the same day. Also, in order to connect with clients, you have to pick up the phone and talk with them and meet with them face-to-face whenever possible,” he said.
New associates are wise to learn this important lesson of being responsive and communicating with clients, colleagues and partners. “Don’t be afraid to have face-to-face and phone conversations with people. That is the best way to get to know people and connect with them,” Michael advised. “In addition, associates should listen and learn from those who have experience,” he continued.
Because Michael works with clients from Japan, Korea, California, and everywhere in between, he travels often and says he could not have been successful in his career without the support of his family. “It’s definitely not easy,” admitted Michael. “When my oldest was six weeks old, I went off to trial for four months. And, while I’ve been to a lot of great places like New York and St. Thomas, I’m not going to extend my stay and sight see. I might grab a nice meal or hit the beach if there is down time, but truly the goal of traveling is always to get back home,” he continued.
Michael works hard to stay connected with his busy and active family. “Whenever I can, I make the weekend family time. For every trip, I write each child and my wife a note, so I have these books going back years,” Michael said.
When he’s not traveling for business, Michael spends time with his 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter and watches them participate in their activities. “My daughter dances and performs in musical theater. She’s very art-oriented and my son is very active in his Junior ROTC program at school,” said Michael. “We also ride bikes and travel as a family. We go on cruises with the kids and they enjoy skiing at Park City in Utah.
“My wife and I try to travel, just the two of us, once a year. We take very active, adventurous trips. My favorite vacation was to Iceland. We hiked on glaciers, saw volcanos and just really enjoyed the country. It was summertime and the highs were 59-61 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Michael.
Michael and his wife recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary by taking a relaxing vacation to a Sandals resort instead of their typical adventurous trip.